East Side Principal Josh Wandell flips switch on community Christmas tree

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks For more photos visit www.elizabethton.com

Cold winter-like temperatures did not stop the crowds from gathering in downtown Elizabethton to celebrate the start of the 2014 holiday season with the lighting of the Fraser Fir community Christmas tree.
Spectators began arriving around 5 p.m. to enjoy the pre-lighting festivities. The entertainment officially began at 5:30 p.m. and was provided by Elizabeth Painter, Miss Watauga Valley, the Elizabethton High School Choral Group, and the Happy Valley Trumpeters.
As the evening drew closer to the 6 p.m. lighting time, a large crowd gathered around the 78 foot-tall tree which is close to 153 years old. The tree is believed to be the largest in Tennessee and the second largest in the country. The Fraser fir tree was planted by Major Henderson Folsom in 1861 when he was constructing the house. A twin tree was planted on the opposite side of the sidewalk leading to the porch on the home but the other Fraser Fir tree did not survive.
In addition to the Fraser Fir, the Christmas tree and Merry Christmas sign atop of Lynn Mountain were lit as well.
Some of the spectators in the crowd were enjoying the tree lighting ceremony for the first time.
“It was awesome,” Cara Silvers said after the tree was lit. “It was beautiful.”
Silvers attended the tree lighting for the first time to sing with the EHS ensemble.
Jennifer and Mike Tierney brought their young daughters Maya and Lillian to the tree lighting for the first time as well.
“We have been here for eight years and we have never been,” Jennifer said. “Maya has been wanting to walk through downtown and look at the Christmas lights.”
Maya, who had already enjoyed a hot cider from the Bonnie Kate Cafe, explained why she loves the Christmas lights.
“I love the lights because they are shiny,” she said. “The snowflake is my favorite.”
Lelia Huntsman with daughter LeAndria Huntsman were another set of first-timers at the lighting. They were at the event to listen to her other daughter sing with the EHS Chorus.
Lelia said this was the families second Christmas in Tennessee after moving her from Ohio.
“This has been nice,” she said. “It was a little cold but it was good.”
For Elizabeth McClellan and her mother Melissa McNeal the tree lighting is an annual event.
“We love it,” McNeal said. “We started coming to support our neighbors who sang with the EHS choir. We still come to hear the choir sing.”
McClellan said the tree lighting provided some quality bonding time for her and her mother.
“It is good mother-daughter time we get to spend together,” she said. “Family time is especially important around the holidays.”
East Side Principal Josh Wandell and his wife Tabitha were chosen to flip the switch to light the tree this year. Wandell was chosen for his work and dedication to the students at East Side Elementary as well as for his faith and positive attitude regarding his ALS diagnosis in 2013.
Wandell described the moment when he flipped the switch to light the Christmas tree as “exciting.”
“It was wonderful,” he said.
He also thanked the community for supporting him and his family after his diagnosis.
“This community has really helped me and my family,” he said. “Their support makes it impossible to focus on this disease.”
Following the lighting of the tree, the EHS Chorus sang another Christmas carol and the Happy Valley Trumpeters played.

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